The city has been able to track how many cyclists have used the new bike lanes downtown, and it’s given them the confidence to come up with a plan for south of the river sooner than anticipated.
Coun. Ben Henderson, during the inaugural urban planning committee of the term on Wednesday, complained that a long-awaited plan for the University area and Strathcona seems to always get pushed back for other priorities.
“The downtown piece worked so well and so briskly, I’m worried now that we’re taking as much time as it took to do the downtown piece to figure out what we’re going to next, rather than actually getting on with it,” he said.
A report was due in March on next steps, however the committee was told, after Henderson’s complaints, that something could come earlier from the administration.
Senior planner, Peter Ohm, told the committee that bicycle ride counts taken this season showed how the numbers “doubled” after Canada Day when the downtown grid was in place.
The downtown bike grid monitoring web page shows numbers like 2,454 on May 31, climbing to consistent numbers in the high 3,000s to low 4,000s through July and August. The outlier was Sept. 4 when 16,684 rode the grid, however that was in conjunction with the Tour of Alberta where a family fun ride covered part of the course.
Henderson wants the plan to mesh with the permanent concrete-supported lanes that have been in a construction phase for the last couple of years.
His hope is the proposal will include the “thousands of bikes that come across the High Level Bridge.”
“You end up at a confusing intersection that has pedestrians going everywhere, bikes going everywhere, and you’re still three or four blocks — if not more — away from the new piece that we built on 83 Avenue and even farther from the new piece we built on 76 Avenue.”
He said those areas further south might be the biggest demand areas in the city.
Henderson is hoping neighbourhood renewal in Strathcona (which is due next year) and Garneau (which is scheduled two years later) will allow planners to create space for bikes and pedestrians.
Stantec designed the downtown grid for the city’s transportation department because its employees wanted to ensure there was something in place for its new building under construction.
Henderson said it’s worth it to have them design additional grids, but at a cost instead of a freebie.